Looooooongtime political blogger Mickey Kaus abruptly left his perch at The Daily Caller this week after having an item criticizing Fox News taken down by Editor in Chief Tucker Carlson. Here's how Kaus explains the series of events to Politico:
"I wrote a piece attacking Fox for not being the opposition on immigration and amnesty -- for filling up the airwaves with reports on ISIS and terrorism, and not fulfilling their responsibility of being the opposition on amnesty and immigration…. I posted it at 6:30 in the morning. When I got up, Tucker had taken it down. He said, 'We can't trash Fox on the site. I work there.'"
Carlson, who co-founded The Daily Caller in 2010, is a conservative contributor to Fox News and the host of its weekend edition of "Fox & Friends."
Kaus says when he told Carlson he needed to be able to write about Fox, Carlson told him it was a hard-and-fast rule, and non-negotiable.
"He said it was a rule, and he wouldn't be able to change that rule. So I told him I quit[.]"
Carlson told Politico "I'm sorry to see him go."
Carlson's noisy (and controversial) aspiration to build an institution on an equal journalistic footing as The New York Times would appear to be abandoned. Put another way, what kind of holy hell would The Daily Caller subject The New York Times to if one of the paper's star columnists was censured for criticizing MSNBC?
Kaus is a friend of mine; Carlson a friendly acquaintance. I also used to work at Fox (and still appear on its airwaves, including twice yesterday), and obviously edit a magazine, so have a couple of thoughts after the jump.
1) Don't hire Mickey Kaus if you don't want your own side criticized. As Nick Gillespie pointed out in the introduction to his 2010 interview with the then-senatorial candidate, "Mickey Kaus' position within the national public policy discussion has always been that of a tweak-your-own-side contrarian." Kaus is also idiosyncratic and monomaniacal (particularly on the underlying subject of immigration, about which I disagree with him)…and all of these things have been well known about the guy for going on two decades now.
2) Fox generates fear of criticizing Fox, and not just among its employees. Kaus portrays this as a kind of monopolistic career-gatekeeper problem:
"It's a larger problem on the right: Everybody is scared of Fox," he said. "Fox is their route to a high-profile public image and in some cases stardom. Just to be on a Fox show is a big deal. And I think that's a problem on the right, Fox's monopoly on star-making power."
I'm not as convinced about the "monopoly" there, and in the specific case Carlson has worked all over the broadcast spectrum. But as this entertaining piece by the late New York Times media critic David Carr illustrates, Fox's Media Relations department, uniquely within the industry (as far as I have ever heard), is notorious and unsettling even to people who have zero aspirations of ever working for or appearing on Fox television programming.
For what it's worth, I never heard a peep from Media Relations during my 15 months of drawing paychecks there and writing/editing here. And there is no disputing that the collection of business practices over in that building have produced the biggest sustained successes in the industry by far.
Gillespie's 2010 interview with Mickey Kaus below:
Michael C. Moynihan interviewed Tucker Carlson for Reason TV in 2010 as well: